Dogs are already very smart. They can recognize words when we talk and understand our emotions. This is why they are (with no doubt) our best friends.
Some dog’ breeds are smarter than others on average, like the Border Collie which has always been considered a very good choice for TV and movies. Stars like Murray from Mad About You, Fly from Babe, or Bandit from the Little House on the Prairie, have become iconic companions on screen.
Other breeds like Poodles, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, are also among the smartest dog breeds, and are also very popular pets. But even when your dog’s breed is not on the list of the smartest dog breeds, there is not a really big gap between dog breeds’ intelligence. You should understand that a key factor on your dog’s brain development is the way you raise them.
There is no real way to say “this dog is smarter than the other” because there are several elements that work together to make a dog the way they are. Some dogs are very good at using their instincts, others are very quick learners and ace amazingly on obedience, and some dogs just have fantastic and unique abilities.
Some dogs can learn up to 165 words, including signals, while other “smarter” dogs can learn up to 250. Other dogs have a clear advantage with a superior sense of smell or hearing. There are certain parameters we can use to determine if our dog is truly exceptional on something, but their behavior will always be unique.
Living with humans so long has definitely affected dogs’ development during these years of companionship. We are still trying to figure out how dogs’ minds work, and there is still a lot that needs to be understood about our best friends. But it takes only a very good dog owner to look at their pet in the eyes and realize they are capable of many complex emotions like gratitude, shame, complicity, and even love. Some of us don’t ever stop getting surprised by something our dog does at any given moment. When an animal is capable of understanding you are sad, and they try to comfort you by laying in your lap, that is an incredibly intelligent animal in my opinion.
A happy dog is more willing to learn faster, this is why we recommend a positive approach when trying to train them, this is certainly the best way there is: Time for puppy preschool: Get the basics for positive dog training. Learn the importance of dog training, how to make your dog come and sit, what are the basic commands, and more.
The cognitive behavior of dogs will determine the process by which they acquire knowledge, store memories, retrieve and process information. When a dog is exposed to a new situation, individual or scenario, they use all their cognitive skills to analyze, combine and compare the information that comes to them.
Dogs display many different behaviors that are associated with intelligence, such as read and react appropriately to humans’ commands and body language. Even the chimpanzees that are so close to us humans in the primate family tree can’t understand our pointing gestures; meanwhile dogs without any kind of training respond quickly and accurately to us pointing at things.
Dogs are also capable of learning through both simple reinforcement and by watching humans or other dogs do things. This means, a dog can learn new things by just looking at us or some of their canine friends, or by us teaching them tricks using rewards when they do something we like.
If all of this is debatable as “intelligent behaviour” there is one type of intelligence that dogs continually demonstrate to be amazing at: emotional intelligence. You don’t need to be a scientist to verify this, your dog is capable of even feeling jealousy! Dogs are very good at identifying our emotions, even when they don’t learn the words we use the most, they can read our voices and define if we are angry, happy or sad.
Reward and obedience training is often seen as the most modern method of training a dog, but reward training is probably much older than other methods of dog training. Here in Time For Puppy Preschool Part 3: Reward & Obedience Training we take a deeper look on how reward training your dog works, how to make it worth and the use of positive reinforcement to effectively achieve obedience. Proper obedience training opens up important lines of communication between handler and dog. The basis of any obedience training program is to gain the cooperation and respect of the animal. It is always much easier to train proper obedience behaviors the first time than it is to go back and retrain a problem dog later on. That does not of course mean that retraining is impossible, it simply means that it is more difficult.
Just like humans, the way a dog eats affects their brain function and development. A good nutrition will help a dog become the best version of themselves.
The most critical part of puppy brain development is during the first week after they’re born. Then, their development decelerates slowly until they reach adulthood. Polyunsaturated fat in fish is one of the best components to add to a puppy’s diet during their development; it is shown that it increases their learning ability, retinal function, and cognitive development.
You should be aware that it is vital for your pup to receive a balanced nutrition during the first year of their life. This will allow their brain cells to mature properly, and their brains will grow as they should.
Some fresh salmon, sweet potatoes and peas are a premium meal full of nutrients to boost your pup’s cognitive power. Maize, coconut oil, carrots and pumpkins are also very good elements to add to your dog’s diet during the growth phase.
Don’t forget when you think of your dog’s diet you must take care of their general health and not only on brain development. Remember there are worms and parasites that can severely affect the health of your dog. You might want to read our entry specially dedicated to this topic: Protecting Your Dog’s Health And The Best Way To Deal With Worms. There are natural ways to deworm your dog and to boost their immune system. The best way to achieve both is by giving your dog the right blend specially designed for these purposes.
You must build a very good relationship with your puppy so they will feel comfortable and willing to “play” with you during your training sessions. If they see these sessions as a way to spend time with you and have fun, they will do their best to please you.
Your dog also needs to be properly socialized with other humans and dogs, this will allow them to rapidly understand the world and the rules by which humans and dogs work. Puppies learn a very big deal from their mother and littermates. Some basic things like how hard to bite might look too simple; but they won’t have a better chance to learn this than those first months of life.
Training your dog as soon as possible is always the best bet. Like we explained in depth on Time For Puppy Preschool Part 2: Training Your New Puppy, dog obedience is a challenge we must ace as soon in the pup’s life as possible. The involvement of different elements, and understanding your puppy’s pace and learning process will determine how effective your efforts are going to be.
Never stop challenging your dog’s ability to solve problems and use their brain. If you let your dog live an easy life without having to do much to get the things they like or want, they will stop using their cognitives abilities and just expect you to give them everything. That’s why dog trainers use food rewards to encourage certain behaviors. Working for rewards is not only good for their brains, but it also means a lot of fun for the canine partner. Who doesn’t feel proud of their dog when they perform a trick perfectly? It’s because that was a joined effort between you and your pet that strengthened the bond between the two of you.
But food rewards are not the only way to positively communicate with your dog when they do something good. Praise and love are also a terrific way to show your dog how much you like it when they do (or avoid to do) something in particular.
Another important way to encourage your dog to be smarter is by giving them a purpose. By giving your dog a job you are telling them they are important and valuable. You can train your dog to collect things when you go out to a specific location, you can train them to protect your home, you can train them to shephard or to perform a variety of tricks for exhibitions. You can even give your dog the task to be a fateful companion for someone who needs therapy of some kind.
Even if your dog is already old, there are ways to stimulate them mentally. Introducing them to new activities and toys, is a good way to keep them active and encourage interaction. Going to new places is also a good way to keep their minds sharp, meeting new people and dogs will also help.
Have you heard “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well that is not true at all. It’s very easy to teach a young pup new tricks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach a new trick to your old dog just because a saying became popular. In fact, it has its perks that an old dog who already trusts you will remember a new trick olver the long term and become less distracted during the process than a young puppy that can easily get overstimulated.
Antioxidant supplements are a very good suggestion to avoid conditions like Alzheimer in senior dogs. These supplements will also slow down the deterioration of the key features of the dog’s brain activity when they reach a certain age. Vitamin C and E will do a great job on fighting oxidative damage and keeping optimal health.
We can’t stress it enough on how important it is for your dog to receive the best nutrition. We must take good care of our beloved buddies, so we must be aware of how to feed them in the best way possible. This is why we have an entire entry specially created for this topic: Dog food for puppies: Why is it so important to get the best food for dogs. The way our dogs eat affects them in many ways, finding the best diet for dogs is a challenge for every dog owner, dedication which is the best food for puppies is up to you.
Everyone can argue about which dog is smarter than the other based on their own parameters; but dog intelligence is complex and it depends on many factors. Even when you acquire the “most intelligent” breed with the best pedigree, that won’t guarantee that a mixed race dog won’t beat yours at dancing salsa.
All dogs are good at some things while being really slow for others. Just like some people are great with numbers but have poor memory. Everyone is different and even if your dog’s breed is listed among the “not so sharp” breeds, that doesn’t mean you can prove your dog has something that others don’t.
Remember love and food are the best ways to encourage your dog to do anything.
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